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Photo: Ron Irby

Thursday October 18, 2012No. 11 Gators Travel to Take On Alabama and Texas A&M

Gainesville, Fla.

Photo: Ron Irby

The No. 11 Florida volleyball team (15-2, 9-0 SEC) hits the road to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Texas A&M Aggies this weekend. The match between the Gators and the Crimson Tide begins at 8 p.m. ET in Tuscaloosa with live video on


On Sunday, Florida is featured in a nationally-televised matchup at Reed Arena against SEC West Division leader Texas A&M. First serve is set for 2 p.m. ET on ESPNU with Michele Smith and Dorothy Franco-Reed on the call. Both matches can be heard live on Country 103.7 The Gator with longtime play-by-play analyst Tom Collett calling the action.


The Gators are looking to stay unbeaten in conference play, as they haven’t dropped a match since their four-set defeat at the hands of then-No. 7 Stanford at the Nike Big Four Classic. Florida is one of eight teams still undefeated in conference action: Penn State in the Big Ten, Stanford in the Pac-12, Texas in the Big 12, Florida in the SEC, Hawaii in the Big West, San Diego in the West Coast Conference, Dayton in the Atlantic 10 and Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt.


The Orange and Blue are coming off a 2-0 weekend, having swept both Ole Miss and Auburn at home last weekend. The Gators are undefeated at home (11-0) and have a two-match lead in the SEC race heading into the weekend.


On Friday evening, Florida was led by Živa Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia), who turned in a match-high 17 kills. Sophomore defensive specialist Holly Pole (Ocala, Fla.) had her best match of the season, scooping a season-high 13 digs and serving up a career-high three aces to lead the Orange and Blue in both categories on Friday. Pole led Florida in digs for the first time in her career.


On Sunday, the Gators’ middle blocking duo of Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) and Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) had their best combined performance of the season. Mann crushed 20 kills, tying her career high from just a few weeks ago when the Gators defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks in four sets. Mann’s 20 kills marks just the second time a Gator has tallied 20+ kills in a 3-set match since the move to 25-point sets in 2008 (22, Recek vs. Texas – 8/31/12). Mann also roofed seven blocks, tying her career high and setting a new season high. Her .679 hitting percentage is also a new season high.


Smith hit a new career high with a .917 hitting percentage (11-0-12). Smith has hit above .500 five times in 2012 and has been errorless nine times since taking on a starting role in 2011 (min. nine attacks). The tandem combined for 31 kills in 40 swings against the Tigers. Junior setter Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.) dished out 70 assists on the weekend, directing the Gators to their 11th and 12th matches of 2012 with a hitting percentage of .300 or better. Florida, who now has a two-match lead in the SEC standings,


Florida leads the SEC in hitting percentage (.312) and service aces (1.56/set), while the Gators have three hitters in the SEC’s top five in hitting percentage. Mann leads the conference with her .422 hitting efficiency, good for eighth in the NCAA. Senior Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) is second in the league with .402 and Smith is fourth with a .379 offensive clip.


Brauneis is tops in the conference in assists at 11.43/set, good for 16th in the NCAA, Mann leads the Gators in blocks with 1.15/set, good for fourth in the league, and sophomore libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) is fifth in digs (4.34/set).


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